Thursday, March 12, 2009

PA House Dems Will Know On Friday Whether They Get Files

As a follow-up to my post two days ago the PA House Democratic Caucus got an order mandating an attorney it hired last year during the Bonusgate investigation produce the files in the courtroom on Friday.

Dauphin County Judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. asked the attorney, William G. Chadwick, to bring the file with him to a hearing scheduled for Friday. At the hearing, Clark is to consider an emergency injunction request that was filed by the caucus along with a lawsuit against Chadwick.

The Patriot-News reported in early 2007 that a secret bonus program existed. After the disclosure, lawmakers said they doled out $3.7 million in bonuses to employees in the previous two years. The report triggered a criminal probe.

Clark is being asked to decide whose interests Chadwick has to protect -- the group of lawmakers who made up the caucus when he was hired or the current group of House Democrats.

Chadwick, a Washington-based lawyer, was hired by House Democratic leaders two years ago to help coordinate their dealings with the state attorney general's office. The office's investigators are trying to determine whether legislators improperly diverted public employees or public resources, including for campaign purposes.

The caucus' current leaders want Chadwick and his consulting firm to return all his files related to their work on the caucus' behalf.

Chadwick has declined to do so. He said Rep. Bill DeWeese, D-Greene, who was the caucus floor leader until November, has invoked attorney-client privilege.

Chadwick's lawyer, Joseph P. Grimes, said in court documents filed Thursday that the caucus has launched "an ill-conceived effort to strip (DeWeese) and constituents of the Democratic caucus of the last session of the House of Representatives of their fundamental right to the attorney-client privilege."

The current caucus, Grimes wrote, has different interests than the House Democratic caucus that existed during the 2007-08 legislative session.

"It does not possess the same interest in protecting confidentiality of the constituents of the caucus '07-'08 and therefore should not, as a matter of public policy, be permitted access to the file," Grimes said.

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